There is a lot of mysticism surrounding confidence. We all heard people say (or even said it ourselves!): “I am not confident enough to take on this challenge”, “I like confident men/women”, “He/she is not confident enough for this role”. It sounds as if confidence is some sort of an attractive magical quality that you either have a gene for or you don’t. While many studies suggest that we are born with certain genetic predisposition – geared towards either more positive thinking or more negative, latest neuroscience proves that biology is not our destiny.
My father was always telling me that the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know. He used to illustrate it with tableware (precisely, with a cup and a plate). If a table, on which the cup and the plate are placed, is the “unknown”, and the areas that plate and cup occupy – what we know, then the circumference of the plate and the circumference of the cup would represent the contact between the “known” and the “unknown”. Plate’s circumference is far greater, therefore, it has more contact with the “unknown”. The more we are exposed to new learnings, life experiences, other people (especially those who don’t think the way we do!), the more we realise that there is only so much that we really know. Jumping to conclusions becomes insidious, because we are now aware that there is so much more to discover. Certainty then is very short-lived, so is confidence in anything other than our own ability to deal with life.
While confidence in general is a variable, confidence in yourself is something you can start practicing, build it day by day and, eventually, master – it is a skill. Self-confidence, broken into pieces, is simply liking, respecting yourself and knowing that you are capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you.
- Show up fully every day, for every single task you have to complete. Don’t cut corners – do it the best you can. Write that e-mail with all you’ve got, prepare that meal to the best of your ability. Remember, you can fool everybody around you but not yourself, doesn’t matter how “smooth” you are.
- Take risks. According to a study published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, individuals with chronically accessible uncertainty who were further exposed to an uncertainty manipulation paradoxically reported reduced uncertainty. The cycles of success and failure increase our confidence in our ability to deal with whatever comes our way.
- Do difficult things. Don’t dedicate to your assistant to deliver the letter of termination of employment to an employee. Do it yourself. Don’t just start avoiding people or stop responding to their messages, explain them what is going on. You want to go through life being able to look people in the eye.
- Keep promises to yourself. If you promise to eat well, exercise, quit smoking/drinking, etc. and don’t follow-through, at the end of the day you will feel like a failure.
- Don’t neglect small daily disciplines. Make your bed, exercise, eat well, read. At the end of the day you will be feeling good about yourself, about your health, about your future.
- Get into a habit of following-through. Of course, some goals are no longer worth pursuing. However, stick to those that are important, find strong enough “why” and complete them.
- Be honest with yourself. If you don’t know something, ask for help, read a book, research, get on a training course. Remember, you don’t want to be a “cup”, you want to be an ever expanding “plate”.
- Acknowledge yourself for successes and be compassionate. At the end of each day acknowledge yourself for your successes and treat yourself with compassion regarding the things that perhaps didn’t go as well as you wanted them to. Don’t beat yourself up. Close the day by simply asking yourself two questions: “What did I do great today?” and “What could I do better tomorrow?”
- Don’t buy into illusion. Remember, blind confidence is arrogance. It is an assumption that one knows everything they need to know already. Blindly confident are the “cups” of this world.
In the words of Robin Sharma, “All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end.”